By Dick Jerardi
It is hard to give up on a champion. So John Servis is not giving up on Jaywalk after she ran third in the April 6 Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.
“I thought she ran good,” Servis said the day after the race. “(Jockey) Javier (Castellano) and I were talking after the race, (we) probably (would have) been better off sitting off the pace a little bit. The one thing we did learn about her as far as being pressured and stuff like that, she’ll rate no problem. He said she doesn’t want to be inside. That horse was putting pressure on her outside and (Castellano) said, ‘I couldn’t get her to run. I didn’t think we were going to beat a horse.’”
Per the plan after she ran a poor fourth in the March 2 Grade II Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park, while rating behind a speed horse, Jaywalk was sent right to the lead in the Ashland. The fractions were quick and she was being hounded by 52-1 Out for a Spin.
Anybody who watched Jaywalk dominate the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on the lead was likely expecting her to pull away on the far turn. That did not happen.
“She just started backing out of there and then the horse that went by us started to drift a little bit in the lane, she jumped right back in the bridle and went to running again,” Castellano told Servis.
When she got passed by eventual winner Out for a Spin, it really did look like Jaywalk was going to finish way back. She ended up third, two lengths behind the winner and essentially the same margin behind the place horse, Restless Rider, a filly she beat by 5 1/2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup.
So it is at least possible Jaywalk peaked that first Friday afternoon of November at Churchill Downs and will never run like that again. Servis, however, still believes in the filly and she will be heading back to Churchill from her Keeneland base on April 28 to get ready for the Grade I Kentucky Oaks on the first Friday of May.
“(Castellano) said hopefully in the Oaks we’ll get an outside post, we’ll sit off the pace, sit wherever we want and maybe get one of those Cathryn Sophia trips, you know,” Servis said.
That would be 2016 Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia, also trained by Servis, ridden by Castellano and third in the Ashland, her last race prior to the Oaks.
That Ashland, however, was just Cathryn Sophia’s first defeat and she was beaten just a half-length. Servis said after the race he may have undertrained her a bit.
Cathryn Sophia did not run in the major two-year-old races, but she did win her first four races by a combined 41 1/2 lengths. One defeat did not cause Servis to lose faith and he was rewarded when she crushed the Oaks field by 2 3/4 lengths in her next start.
So there is some precedent, even if Jaywalk’s two 2019 races remain puzzling.
“You know we made history before, we can do it again,” Castellano told Servis after the race.
So they will go on to the Kentucky Oaks with Jaywalk, six months after her dominating Breeders’ Cup win.
“This race was definitely better than her first race,” Servis said. “I did a little more with her going into this race.”
If Servis can get Jaywalk back to her two-year-old form, she will have a big chance to win the Kentucky Oaks again. We will know more in a month.